Activists come from across country to restore TUSD Mexican American Studies

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Activists come from across country to restore TUSD Mexican American Studies

CREATED Jul 2, 2012

Reporter: Craig Smith

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Activists from all over the county are coming to Tucson for a summer-long push to revive TUSD's Mexican American Studies program.
The school board shelved the program about half a year ago but it's still an issue that heated up the school board meeting tonight.

As the TUSD board met inside district headquarters, protestors outside chanted: "Whose teachers? Our teachers!  Whose schools? Our schools! Whose books? Our books!"

Protestors are still fighting the board shelving the Mexican American Studies program, after a state law tailored to target TUSD found the program encouraged resentment between races.
The issue was not on the agenda but it came up anyway, when a parent asked about Mexican America Studies books he had heard were banned from classrooms.
TUSD administrators have long said there's was no book ban, that books pulled from class are still in school libraries. Board member Adelita Grijalva pushed to clarify whether teachers were told not to teach from certain books.  The Assistant Superintendent said that did apply to five or six of them.

Adelita Grijalva asked: "The Mexican American Studies classes that were using these books were not allowed to continue to use them the way they were using them previously as part of their curriculum?"

TUSD assistant superintendent Dr. Maria Menconi said, "As part of their units.  That's correct.  But they were returned to schools and libraries."
The books are just part of what brought activists to Tucson from all over the country for an effort they call Tucson Freedom Summer. Ernesto Mireles is one of the organizers.  He teaches Chicano Literature at Michigan State University.

"I was invited by some of the teachers to come here to help kind of launch this freedom summer we're calling it.  Basically what we've done is put out a nationwide call for organizers, activists and artists to converge on Tucson in the month of July, to show support for the MAS program."

While organizers are not giving up on restoring Mexican American studies to TUSD they say they want to build a program independent of the schools so it can operate more freely.

They're pinning a lot of hope on the Federal desegregation case against TUSD.  They hope the judge rules a Mexican American Studies program should be part of the desegregation plan, no matter what state law may say.